The News Minute | March 6, 2015 | 6.40 PM IST
It is a case that has dragged on for 23 years, a case that has had huge political ramifications for J Jayalalithaa, but on Wednesday, the infamous TANSI case finally came to an end.
The High Court of Madras closed a petition seeking to declare the TANSI land deal as illegal. The court said that the matter has been adjudicated by the Supreme Court and the petition was thus infructuous. The closure has come after 23 long years.
History of the case
The case dates back to March 1992 when Jaya Publications and Sasi Enterprises, two enterprises in which then Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu Jayalalithaa and her friend and aide Sasikala were partners bought land owned by Tamil Nadu Small Industries Corporation run TANSI Foundry and TANSI Enamel wire unit respectively.
In 1993, Dr. Subramanian Swamy sought permission from Tamil Nadu Governor M. Channa Reddy to disqualify Jayalalithaa as an MLA, and alleged that the land had been undervalued and sold to the firms. Later in 1995, he sought sanction from the Governor to prosecute her on several charges. In April 1995 the permission was granted by the Governor.
By 1996, the DMK was elected to power under M. Karunanidhi. The government transferred the case for further investigation to the Crime Branch of the state CID. On November 15, 1996 the charge sheet which included among others the former Chief Minister, her aide Sasikala and the Director of TANSI was filed.
It said that over 3 acre land of the TANSI Foundry was bought by Jaya Publications below the guideline value which, therefore, incurred a loss to the state. The charge sheet said that she "abused her official position (that of the Chief Minister) at every stage" of the deal.
By October 1997, another case was filed by the CB CID. This case also involved the same persons. The charge was that they conspired to help Sasi Enterprises attain the land and building of TANSI’s wire unit, again at an undervalued rate. The charge sheet said that the Jaya-Sasi duo ill-gained money worth Rs. 66.11 crore in the transaction.
The trial got over and in 2000 the judgment was pronounced. In both cases the duo was found guilty. In the Jaya Publication case, special judge Mr P. Anbazhagan said that Jayalalithaa had “dishonestly abused her office” and sentenced her for 3 years rigorous imprisonment and in the Sasi Enterprises case she was sentenced for two years.
The convicts approached the High Court of Madras and the court stayed the verdict.
“As Chief Minister, Ms. Jayalalitha could be a partner in a firm and the same could not be questioned. There was no material to conclude that any trust had been created in respect of the property and the relationship between Ms. Jayalalitha and TANSI was one of a trustee and beneficiary. In such circumstances, her counsel's argument that there could not be any charge for an offence punishable under Section 409 IPC, could not be brushed aside easily, Mr Justice Thangaraj said.
“God is great,” she said in response.
However, the court did not stay the sentence. Jayalithaa was, therefore, debarred from contesting the assembly election in 2001. But the AIADMK won the elections and the MLAs elected her as the Chief Minister. This made the Supreme Court come in and declare that a convicted person could not hold the office of the Chief Minister. She had to step down.
Relief came in three months when the High Court acquitted her of all charges. Soon she was elected to the Assembly from Andipatti constituency.
Her relief was, however, short lived. Within barely a month the Supreme Court admitted a Special Leave Petition by the DMK challenging the High Court order. But when the apex court gave its judgment in November 2003 it upheld what the High Court had said.
"None of the offences charged against the accused are established. There is no ground to interfere with the high court's order,” the court said. Yet, it commented about integrity and uprightness that is to be shown by public servants.
"Good ethical behaviour is the hallmark of a good administration and people in public life must perform their duties in a spirit of public service, rather than by assuming power to indulge in callous cupidity."